I interviewed for a new board role last week. Despite my attempts to recover, I face-planted the interview. The interviewers were gracious, sticking it out for an hour when the meeting was effectively over within 10 minutes. Perhaps they, too, have experienced failure and knew that the right mindset could help me pivot to a better outcome.
As we build board careers, finding a redemptive perspective is crucial. There is no single, clear path ahead, so we are bound to make some detours. Fortunately, the way we respond to failure establishes the long-term track record that matters.
Today, I’m ready to see disappointment as an opportunity. Here is the route I am taking to get back on track.
Allow a limited time for wallowing
I don’t believe in dusting ourselves off immediately and pretending that everything is fine. I think there is a place for mourning a loss, especially one that reflects on us as individuals.
“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” ~ John Green
A finite period of emotional recovery can position us to perceive new insights and gather our energy. Without this downtime, I suspect that successive failures would fatigue an otherwise optimistic person.
Find lessons in the root cause of the failure
Immediately after my interview, I felt like a blindfolded kid spun around in a playground game. Despite having 19 pages of research notes on hand, I lost my way. The executive recruiter had given me the interview questions in advance, for goodness sake! Yet, I floundered.
“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” ~ Bill Gates
Our knee-jerk reaction often blames others, but the answer usually lies within. When I was honest with myself, I knew that I went into the interview exhausted. After several weeks of sick children, late nights, half marathon training and business travel, I was used up. Putting on a brave, enthusiastic, your-company-is-totally-fascinating face turned me into a robot.
Focus your energy on a big project
After a set-back, I start a big challenge, something with an inspiring pay-off. Doing so puts distance between us and the negative experience. We can feed off of the momentum created by a fresh goal.
“All things splendid have been achieved by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” ~ Bruce Barton
Right now, I’m pouring my energy into The Boardroom Blueprint online course. I’m taking the work that I do one-on-one with clients and making it accessible to anyone, anywhere. Writing, recording video, editing, marketing…it’s new work and bolder than anything I have done previously.
When I see disappointment as an opportunity, I do so because the opportunity itself has the potential to slingshot me into new territory.
[Tweet “If we pivot effectively, our next success will make the original failure look like child’s play. “]
Stay the course
Although a retired CEO might find himself tripping over board opportunities, the rest of us must be patient and tenacious. We must continue to speak frequently and confidently about our aspirations. If we allow a single rejection to discourage us, we are giving another party far too much power.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill
Fortunately, another opportunity is often on the horizon. This is especially true if we return to first principles and apply the very same behaviors that created positive outcomes in the past.
How do you bounce back from disappointment? And how do you remind yourself that promising opportunities often arise on the heels of a setback?